Too many Scuba incidents – Stress, and how to deal with it.

The background

I cannot explain why, but it seems as though more recently there appears to be a wave of scuba diving deaths or incidents that I am being made aware of. Maybe, it’s just a coincidence that it happens to be people within my social networks sharing this information, or maybe with the continued growth of social media has made it easier to have access or exposure to this information?! I don’t know. Either way, the incidents have come to my attention as of late and to me its something that cannot be ignored.

I am not a detective and I do not want to even open the door to try to suggest what has been the cause of such incidents but the interesting common denominator with the majority of these incidents is that the cause of death remains unknown. The diver has failed to surface. When I do hear of such incidents it does prompt me to examine and share with the diving community one topic that is simply impossible to ignore, and I can assure you with no doubt, that each diver that has failed to rejoin us for sure experienced this on their last fatal dive. Stress.

The problem

Stress is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. It is a normal human emotion we all experience when we face threatening or difficult situations. Stress is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas stress is the expectation of future threat. Associated with the secretion of adrenalin, stress can help us avoid dangerous situations or get out of them. It can make us alert and it can spur us to deal with a threat or other problem and not simply avoiding it (i.e., the “fight or flight” reaction). However, if feelings of foreboding become too strong or last too long, they can hold us back from many normal activities and have debilitating outcomes.

A more intense form of stress is panic, a sudden, unexpected but powerful surge of th-4fear. Panic can cause a wholesale flight from the immediate situation, a reaction that is especially dangerous for scuba divers. A diver who experiences panic at depth is subject to near-drowning, lung over-expansion injuries and death. Panic attacks are extremely dangerous under water, and sometimes its difficult to know what triggers them.

Out of a millions of certified scuba divers, a percentage of recreational scuba divers die each year, but little is known about the precipitating events for many of these deaths. A coroner’s report of “drowning” tells us nothing about what led to, or caused, a divers death. Reports by DAN (Divers Alert Network) and other agencies into scuba diving accidents state that:

“Researchers in diving accidents implicate panic, as a response to stress or anxiety as the major cause of diving fatalities”

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In Medical Examination of Sport Scuba Divers (1998), Alfred Bove states:

“Panic, or ineffective behaviour in the emergency situation when fear is present, is the single biggest killer of sports divers”.

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In 1998 the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) guideline for the Recreational Scuba Divers physical examination listed “a history of panic disorder” as an absolute contradiction to scuba diving.

However, we must be very clear that there is no way to determine that panic in accidents does result in fatalities, this is merely an assumption based on knowledge of the psychological and behavioural responses that people make to stress. What we do know is that many people feel stress before a dive especially when they are starting out on their scuba diving journey. It is completely understandable as it is a new alien world that is being explored. Beginners don’t know what it is going to feel like underwater or if they will enjoy it. In abnormal situations, stress is manifested by apprehension and dread, though it sometimes cannot be attached to a clearly identifiable stimulus. This stressful state usually occurs in response to a mishap, such as a dive mask flooding with water. This may cause the diver to panic unnecessarily and behave irrationally. The essential feature of a panic attack is a period of intense fear that is accompanied by a sense of imminent danger and an urge to escape, or a desire to flee from wherever the attack is coming from. An
expected result of a diver having a panic attack would be that the divers breathing rate increases, there by resulting in decreased efficiency or oxygen exchange, and a feeling of suffocation ensues. The diver would then typically try to make a rapid ascent to the surface or departure from a certain location or frantically grabs for air supplies and lack of concern for the safety of others.

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Another way that panic can show itself is what we call Passive panic. These divers are perceived as calm, they will sink, and perish without a call for help. The buddies of these divers thought their associates were non-stressed, and normal. Recognizing this form of panic is very difficult, the victims show no outward signs of any difficulty, but most will have “blank eyes”. Underwater they may lose their regulator and not try to replace it. They will not try to save themselves. Typically a passive victim will seem confused, or vague and then slip underwater. It is the divers total inability to look after themselves and willingness to sink that appears in most case studies.

Either way the panic manifests itself it arises when individuals lack a solution to a critical problem. Sometimes, experienced divers with hundreds of logged dives also experience panic for outwardly no clear reason. The panic most likely occurs because divers lose sight of familiar objects, become disoriented and experience a form of sensory deprivation. The likelihood of a victim of panic coping with any situation is slim to none. In the study of divers death, many still had the weight belt still in place, mouthpiece had been removed, buoyancy compensators were not inflated, and air was still in the tank. This all suggest panic.

One training goal of all scuba diving agencies at all diving levels is to provide the diver with these “solutions” which should become automatic behaviours.

The factors of stress and what to look out for.

Physical Causes of Stress:

Overloading

Sensory Deprivation

Time Pressure

Equipment

Cold Water

Poor Fitness/Swimming Ability

Strong Currents, Waves, Obstructions

Dangerous Marine Life

Psychological Causes of Stress:

Peer Pressure

Social Evaluation

Ego Threat

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of Evaluation

Pre-Dive Physiological Signs:

Increased Heart Rate

Rapid Respiration

Muscle Tension

Frequent Urination

Increased Perspiration

Voice Changes

Decrease in Skin Temperature

Pre-Dive Behavioral Signs:

Introversion

Mental Errors

Forgetfulness

Extreme Cockiness

Irritability

In-Water Symptoms:

Rapid Respiration

The “Wide-Eyed” Look

Inefficient Swimming

Clinging and Clambering

Fixation and Perceptual Narrowing

Sudden Surfacing

High Treading/Trashing

Equipment Rejection

The studies

Many studies have been conducted to examine divers with a history of panic attacks and what were their in water responses. Similarly, reports have been conducted with random scuba diving populations to examine if a panic attack has ever occurred and what the divers response was. This type of panic survey has quite interesting implications on diver training. From these studies and what I can read and interpret are some general conclusions:

  1. Generally the data collected by these various studies would suggest that training of how to deal with emergency situations is largely effective. There was a high percentage of panicking divers who stated that they did remember their training in the emergency situation and it enable them to deal with the situation.
  1. All divers benefit from repetitive skill practise. The more familiar divers are with skills, the more likely they are to respond appropriately to panic. Repeated practice in confined water, including spontaneous drills, raises the response availability levels.

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  1. Student divers who show more elevated levels of stress and anxiety may be more prone to panic. This may be clear if they show stress when dealing with a new skill. These individuals benefit greatly from repetition, through though the practise required may be higher than for other individuals.
  1. Studies would also suggest that women are much more likely to recognise and ask for help than men in a stressful situation. I am not sure why, but I guess that cultural influence is probably a good speculation. Male self-reliance is quite high in most cultures, asking for help may threaten their self-esteem, or men may be conditioned from a young age to not seek out assistance?! Emphasising diving as a team activity maybe help deal with these gender differences and enable men to be more receptive to assistance and may help to offset self-esteem issues.

Prevention techniques

 Training

Professional training builds your diving confidence, nobody can argue this point. Years of research and tried and tested techniques have gone into the created of today’s scuba diving courses. Modern scuba diving training has been specifically designed to ease stress and slowly build on skills to a point where divers are ready to go out into open water. Organizations, such as SSI, have skills and procedures that divers must learn in sequence – these standards are adhered to by SSI Instructors worldwide. Studying theory, watching videos and learning skills in the pool is followed by practicing in the sea with your instructor. This allows you to slowly develop at your own pace – only progressing when you are comfortable with each section.

This sequencing of training not only applies to the recreational diving world but also to those more experienced divers who are looking to extend their diving either to greater depths or to involve mandatory decompression. For these divers, their basic diving skills should be habitual, but more importantly they are now going to enter a world where sometimes to “go up” is simply not an option. Decompression diving, throws into the equation even more potential stress situations that need to be trained for and managed well.

Stress & Rescue Diver Course

Scuba divers describe the SSI Stress & Rescue Diver course as the most challenging, yet most rewarding course they’ve ever taken. Why? Because you learn to prevent and manage problems in the water, and become more confident in your skills as a diver, knowing that you can help others if needed. Through the course you will learn accident prevention, as well as how to handle problem situations is they occur. The programme is about avoiding, recognizing and solving problems on the surface and underwater.

The SSI Stress and Rescue course prepares you to deal with dive emergencies, minor and major, using a variety of techniques. Through knowledge development and rescue exercises, you learn what to look for and how to respond. During rescue scenarios, you put into practice your knowledge and skills.

Course Content:Diver Stress & Rescue

  • What Is Stress?
  • Stress In Diving: Causes And Prevention
  • Detecting And Dealing With Stress
  • Accident Management
  • Skills Needed To Deal With Panic And Rescues
  • Conditions That Complicate Rescues

Equipment familiarity

During scuba diving training, divers learn how to set up, adjust, check, and put on their equipment. Understanding how your equipment works will give you added confidence and reduce stress. Making sure everything is fitted correctly and securely, with the help of your instructor or buddy, is very important. One of the most important factors to think about when looking at equipment is to make sure that the type of equipment that you are wearing is suitable for the diving environment but most importantly making sure that you have the correct training to be able to use all the equipment in an efficient, habitual automatic way.

Confined Water Practice

This is probably the area of scuba diving at all levels that is simply overlooked. The majority of certified divers only going back into a confined water environment when making a new course and the shallow water skills being a mandatory part of the new course. As I mentioned earlier, as a diver learning to scuba dive their training is performance-based, and they have plenty of time to learn and practice scuba diving skills in the pool before heading out to the open water. Just have a think to yourselves honestly, when was the last time you personally made a review of all scuba diving skills and I mean more than can you clear a mask!

Relaxation and Visual rehearsal

All divers of all levels should begin their dive feeling relaxed and calm. Try not be rushed to get ready, give yourself time to go through the dive plan in your mind with your buddy to make sure you are both clear of the techniques, emergency procedures, entering and exiting methods and generally the diving route. At the start of the dive aim to become relaxed with slow, deep breathing and allow yourself time to get to get orientated to being underwater by pausing after your descent. Take an additional moment in the shallow waters to regulate your breathing. The key point is understanding that breath control and relaxation go hand-in-hand.  Check your equipment and computer, and to signal to your buddy that everything is OK. To not rush and do not be rushed by others. When you rush, you create stress and may not follow the procedures you have been taught. Similarly, don’t rush around underwater – take time to appreciate what nature has created and enjoy the full experience of breathing underwater. Having a good level of calmness will aid in control of stress levels in the water. Divers who also learn the “Calming Response” in Stress and rescue courses, learn a technique which involves stomach breathing. The calming response is a fast and effective way of improving relaxation and performance.  Scuba divers, using this technique, can significantly increase breath control and relaxation within 5 – 10 breaths.

Diving discipline

I have addressed the issue of training and that comfort through repetition of skills is essential in creating automatic habitual responses. However, as divers consider themselves to become more experienced a certain degree of complacency could become evident. This complacency to me is more of an issue than the novice diver with more limited experience. Dare I say it a sense of arrogance surrounds this type of diver and the perceived assumption that “it will never happen to me”. This type of diver no longer considers the underwater world to be a hazardous environment and as such may lack respect for the potential hostile conditions that scuba diving situation can present. Diving preparation falls to a minimal level, equipment is not maintained to an acceptable standard, and recommended diving guidelines no longer apply to them.

Don’t let yourself fall into this category. Have discipline, keep up to date with current training developments, equipment advances, stay mentally and physically active, keep the respect for the underwater world, keep your skills refreshed, plan a dive and dive the plan, and finally leave the ego at home!

Summary

The fact of the matter is that Scuba Diving has inherent risks that simply cannot be removed. However, though the techniques outlined above we can aim to make ourselves as divers as prepared as possible for the activity. Similarly, stress is an emotional factor that also cannot be eliminated from the human psychology. However, there are ways in which we can have better control on stress, awareness of where, when and how it can occur can enable us to keep a good handle on it.

The underwater world can be as unpredictable as it is amazing, this it what keeps drawing us back to it.

Dive safe everybody.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager & Owner

SSI Recreational & Technical Instructor Trainer

cat@tekstremediving.com

http://www.tekstremediving.com

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Southern Red Sea Exploration.

So finally on dry land and I am back in the office where I find some time to reflect and evaluate upon the “exploration trip” that my colleague Shaun and myself had recently undertaken.

I use the term “exploration” for lack of better terminology, but I feel an explanation is in order as “exploration” also is not really the correct word!   The term “Exploration” would suggest to the reader that we were finding new dive locations, new reef systems, when simply this was not the case. We were in fact visiting very well know reef areas but the “exploration” part was specific to the depth that we were diving and the area of the reef we were diving.

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During my very first years working in Egypt I had the pleasure and opportunity to visit most dive locations within the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, from as far north as the straights of Tiran down the southern reef systems of Elba which lie on the Sudanese border and everything and anything in between. These were the days where as a safari guide you were not “fixed” to any single route, you were moved around from boat to boat, route to route each week. What this created was a generation of safari guides which a huge expanse of diving knowledge and experience of the entire Red Sea. Sometimes I miss those days, now however, I don’t think the husband would be so happy with me being out at sea for 6 weeks each time!

Anyway, I am becoming side tracked….

So, I found myself back in the southern area of the Red Sea, of which the purpose of the trip was to “explore” each of the dive sites between the depths of 40m – 80m. Currently, there are no companies who offer specific technical diving trips to this area, OK, there are a few boats where they could cater for the odd deco dive but nobody is looking specifically at these dives sites though the eyes of the diver who would like to go that bit deeper. We had to find out why. Is it because there is nothing of interest below 40m in this area? Is it because the potential stronger currents pose a safety hazard to divers during decompression? Or is it lack of knowledge of the area? Or is there simply no demand. We at Tekstreme Diving wanted to try and answer these questions….

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The reef systems in the southern Red Sea are absolutely stunning in the shallow water and believe me this continues though to depth, actually, I would say even better in terms of quality of coral growth. As an example, the size and abundance of the Gorgonia fan corals that we were witnessing between 50m – 85m were mind-blowing. You need to trust me when I say it was like diving untouched reefs, reefs where no diver’s fin had accidentally clipped the coral and snapped off an entire branch, no damaged hard corals about from natural processes, this is what we were experiencing. It was amazing. You can see that not many divers are visiting these depths and the currents provide such a rich supply of nutrients that the soft corals especially can flourish.

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A particularly favourite of mine is a narrow tower of a reef, the local turn for it would be a “Habili”. This particular Habili looks like nothing on the surface but is simply one the reefs which is the most rich in life, its an aquarium for all creatures great and small. This cone shaped reef gets wider as you get deeper and provides marine life, colour and excitement all the way down to around 75m. We actually spent most of our dive at 50m watching as grey reef sharks smoothly cruised in and out unfazed by us as we were still and quiet. The world of having no bubbles on a rebreather comes into its own and the pelagics come closer to check us out. There is a potential for much current on these reefs but as these reef systems rise all he way to the surface you will always have a reference to swim alongside as you fulfil your decompression obligations. Plus, we will always have zodiacs to support us from the surface so if any divers find themselves away from the reef they will always be tracked and collected.

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Within the southern area there are also some wrecks. One in particular is sat at a maximum depth of 50m, this wreck attracts a huge array of marine life and has a great atmosphere. It’s at a nice depth to enjoy a longer bottom time having a scrape around and exploring the wreck in its entirety. There is also another more historic wreck, which is not greater in depth than 30m, but makes a great afternoon dive. Do dive it well it would still require some decompression due to its size so for sure a great feature of the area.

There is talk of another larger wreck within this approximate area but deeper which we aim to do a more specific search for on our next trip to this area. I am always a bit dubious when it comes to listening to tales of sunken wrecks as most of the time it turns out to be nothing, but when I have now had information from a few different sources all talking about a similar location, it certainly gets my attention.

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Moving a little bit further north there are some reefs that sit on the edge of a deep-water trench with walls dropping vertically down depths. These reefs are fed by a stong consistent currents that suppy the goodness for the corals to flourish. It’s on these reefs as you descend through the depth ranges the types and colours of corals here is changing quite dramatically. The colours of the soft corals are not restricted to the shallow waters they can be found through 50, 60, and 70m. Whip corals, black corals and Gorgonians’ in substantial volumes and sizes can be found at depth. Some of these reefs over the years have taken their toll on safari boats and the wrecks that are left behind may not have an exciting history but, what you find is that over time they have created a mini ecosystem and they attract a wide variety of marine life around the outside and inside. For sure it makes a nice feature of the dive.

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Of course we can’t be visiting the southern area without a stop at Elphinestone reef. This particular site needs no further exploration from us, this is one dive site that is already included in some of our other existing technical safari trips, but I include it here for those who have never had the opportunity to dive the reef. This finger long reef has dramatic plunging walls to the east and west, with plateaus on the north and south. You can dive to 100m all the way around this reef if you wanted to! Typically, we dive the northern plateau to any depth between 40 – 100m with eyes peeled with the to aim to find either Grey Reef sharks off the tip of the plateau or Hammerhead sharks. Its an area that gets a great current feed and so very nutrient rich. The colours of soft corals across the plateau are some of the best to be found in this area. As an alternative dive to the north, the reef has provided for us a natural landscape feature in the shape of an archway. Running directly under the southern plateau, this natural feature allows you pass from one side of the reef to the other. You can swim through this archway anywhere between 48m – 60m. It is also on this southern side of the reef where you have chance to find the Oceanic White Tip reef sharks patrolling the shallow waters.

Summary

As much as we have had a great week of diving and the exploration of the area at depth has begun there is a great deal more for us to do and hopefully more wrecks and natural features to be found. With the information that we now have, we have put together an itinerary for next year that will return to the sites that we have just visited but will also build in more time for further exploration. This means, for the divers on trip next year, will be just like us and exploring these areas for the first time. Is there a demand for this type of diving, this type of exploration, I absolutely believe the answer is yes.

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“Exploration is really the essence of human spirit”

Frank Boreman

Trip Details

Dates = 14/08/16 – 21/08/16

Vessel = Emperor Asmaa

Price = 999 euros

Contact info@tekstremediving.com for details on the trip and how to reserve your place.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Techical Diving

Winter Warmer in The Red SEA

When the European summertime comes to an end and Christmas would be fast approaching take a final chance to escape to the warmer waters of the Red Sea for some scuba diving action.

In November 2015, Emperor Divers will be offering back to back trips to visit the northern wrecks and reefs of the Red Sea and have very kindly offered Tekstreme the opportunity to invite trained decompression divers to join the boat. Tekstreme will provide a guide for divers wishing to enjoy a safari trip made up of non-deco dives and deco dives.

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These trips are also the perfect opportunity for divers onboard the boat who currently do not have any decompression qualification to take the first level decompression course and maximize their times diving on some of the most amazing wrecks that the area has on offer. The SSI Extended Range Nitrox (SSI XR Nitrox) course enables you to continue to use your current scuba diving equipment whilst you learn the basics of decompression diving. You will be trained to dive to 40m utilizing eanx gases up to pure oxygen for decompression. You can do home study for the short course before hand, at your convenience, leaving the most enjoyable part of the course, the diving, to when you are on the boat with us.

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The Safari route

The Wrecks and reefs trip is the best of both worlds, where you visit famous wrecks in the northern Red Sea along with some stunning reef diving. This trip is not about depth, but it’s about having the time to explore the wrecks and reefs in all their glory within the 30 – 45m range.

Abu Nuhas has four well-known wrecks: Ghiannis D, Carnatic, Chrisoula and Kimon M. All wrecks offering spectacular dives and plenty of fish life, and how about to try diving all four wrecks in one dive!

Night dives can be superb as Gubal Island offers protected anchoring for the night. A small wreck at 8-10 metres makes for a spectacular night dive with lionfish, scorpion fish and its resident giant moray eel as well as the wreck of the Ulysses.

The wreck of the Rosalie Moller is a perfect example of where having some decompression training can transform a dive. Imagine not being stuck to having only 20 minutes on the wreck before decompression but to be trained to happily have 40 minutes instead! Now we are talking! Next onto the Kingston lying at Shag Rock; the Carina lying close to Sha’ab Ali and the Dunraven at Beacon Rock in Ras Mohamed National Park.

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Last but not least lets not forget the most famous wreck in the Red Sea, the Thistlegorm, at Sha’ab Ali.

The SS Thistlegorm was sunk in 1941 after being bombed by the German Luftwaffe while on a mission to deliver a cargo of ammunition and other war materials to the British troops in North Africa. The Rosalie Moller, carrying a cargo of coal, suffered the same fate just two days later. Many divers have yet to explore the wreck and the surrounding debris field in all its glory again because the computer says “no”! This does not have to be the way. During your SSI XR training you will learn how to combine the best eanx gas for deeper exploration, in combination with an efficient decompression gas to enable you to be the first in the water and for sure the last out the water!

Whilst in Ras Mohamed, you may have the chance to do a dive at Shark Reef; a sheer wall falling into the blue. From here the boat heads back towards Hurghada.

In between wreck dives you will also visit the reefs of the Straits of Gubal, Gulf of Suez and those to the north of Hurghada. A variety of deep walls and hard coral gardens with an abundance of reef fish make them well worth a visit.

All wrecks are subject to divers’ experience and weather conditions.

 

The Dates

November 20th – 27th 2015

November 27th – 4th December 2015

The Price

As a special winter deal Emperor Divers are offering either of these trips above for 899 euros.

This price includes:

Airport transfers

7 nights accommodation

Marine park fees

Fuel Surcharges

All food and soft drinks on the boat

Technical dive guide

This price does not include:

Technical diving supplies:

Twin set hire or CCR tank hire = 60 euros for the week

2 x Deco tank hire / bailout tank hire = 30 euros for the week

CCR oxygen gas fills = 5 euros per fill / top up

Eanx gases up to 39% = 5 euros per fill / top up

Eanx gases between 40% – 79% = 8 euros

Eanx gases 80% – 100% = 12 euros

Sofnolime = 11 euros per kg

Notes

Please note that this trip is not a specific technical safari. It is a traditional wrecks and reefs safari with the option to make some decompression dives or join the entry level SSI XR nitrox course with one of the Tekstreme team. Tekstreme will guarantee their normal high level of service with regards to:

Custom gas mixtures to 200bar

Technical guide(s) available for all dives

Safety procedures and dive awareness

Detailed dive site briefings from a decompression perspective

Emergency oxygen and additional emergency drop down gases

There are no minimum requirements in terms of how many divers would like to make decompression dives. One of our guides will be there even if there is only one person who would like to make decompression dives! There does not get better service than that!

Contact us for reservations or more information.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

Tekstreme “The Tour”.

Did you know, that one of the most common questions that I get asked when guests are enquiring to me about Tekstreme and wanting to do some diving with us is, “Are Tekstreme located in other countries?” To date, I have had to reply that the answer is no.

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Tekstreme have, since establishment, concentrated their time offering technical services throughout Egypt. As a technical company we are one of the largest in Egypt with operations, through the facilities of Emperor Divers, in Sharm El Shiekh, El Gouna and Marsa Alam plus offering multiple specific technical safaris throughout the year. I guess personally for me, before taking Tekstreme to other destinations I want to be sure that we have the right attitude, approach, business plan, commitment, audience and of course the desire. Right now I believe we can easily tick all of those boxes. However, these things are not to be rushed. Much research needs to be done on destinations, availability, profitability, demand etc etc. We see in our industry too many technical operations opening up around the world yet one year later they close their doors. As a reputable technical diving company we need to ensure that if we take on such a project outside of Egypt that our customers can be assured that we will be there to stay.

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Now don’t get too excited, this blog is not Tekstreme announcing a new location, not quite yet, but what we are doing in the meantime is to take Tekstreme “On Tour”. Beginning in 2016 we are going to be offering technical diving trips to multiple other locations outside of Egypt. This way, our customers who want to have the benefit of diving multiple locations, but staying with Tekstreme are going to be very happy. Tekstreme will be organising diving trips including accommodation in various European destinations to begin with, before expanding to worldwide destinations. We will only be using the facilities of highly reputable dive centres in each location who we know will maintain high standards that our customers demand. On each trip one of our highly trained technical team members will be there with our customers to ensure that our high standards are kept and of course to offer technical courses on each trip.

For each trip, we are keeping them quite exclusive, small groups only. We plan to take a maximum of around 8 – 10 divers on each trip. For us, it has always been about quality, not quantity and this philosophy will not change. We want to have a more intimate group of divers that we can care for on a personal level, rather than a conveyer belt of divers!

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For us, these are really exciting times and we cant wait to take kick start Tekstreme “The Tour”, we hope that we are going to see many of our technical diver friends come and join us and make this the best technical tour ever.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

SSI, Mares and an interesting end to the year.

Can anybody explain to me where the last 4 months have gone as I cant! One minute I am teaching courses in 30 degrees water looking forward to the world cup football to begin and the next thing I know Christmas decorations are up and we need to use the heater at night time!

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The second part of the year for me has been quite exciting. I guess one of the things that stands out the most for me is to receive an email from technical instructor Paul Toomer requesting a meeting somewhere on the out skirts of London. As it happens I happened to be heading to UK and so agreed to meet him. All I knew was he wanted to try and sell me his new product some thing called “SSI TXR”. In all honesty I was not so excited about this, why would I be, its just another training agency looking to increase its numbers and how can they achieve that by trying to recruit Tekstreme who is one of the largest technical training companies in Egypt. Makes sense really! What I was not prepared for was to be shown the new materials that he had written. Now you may think what is so special about another technical diving manual? Well, it seems as though these people in SSI have recognised the digital era that we are in and designed manuals specifically for viewing on tablets, Ipads etc . My husband has taught me, and is continuing to teach me about the wonderful world of digital technology and so of course it immediately got my attention. The layout was clear, the text informative but not overbearing and the structure of the manual was progressive and an easy read. But lets face it, there is more to a training agency than just the manual, now for the important stuff… the courses.

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There are not so many different ways that technical courses can be done, ultimately you start off shallow and you end up deep. You start of with one tank and further down the line you end up with 6 tanks! What was a key factor for me was how can we as the instructor teach the course. This was what was enlightening. We “as the instructors” were actually allowed / given the opportunity to use our judgment and experience to enhance the teaching process. Ultimately there are a set of standards that the agency wants us to adhere to, but within those we had the scope to vary training depending on conditions and the level of students. Paul was very passionate about this range of technical courses and it was nice to spend time with a fellow instructor who is actively looking to continue to improve our industry.

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Moving forward a couple of months in the year was when we heard some strange news. SSI were being brought by Mares. This immediately concerned me. Since the meeting in London I had spent a lot of time with the guys from SSI helping to organise staff crossovers, creating SSI events to increase awareness of SSI recreational and technical courses, helping them out on the SSI stand at the dive show for a few examples. A lot of time and effort had gone into this partnership and then they simply sold themselves out! You can’t help but think that it is just for the money and now SSI wont care! No sooner had these rumours began that Karim Salah who is responsible for SSI recreational training in Egypt spoke to me to reassure that my concerns were not needed and that this move was going to a positive feature. This move by Mares and SSI is probably the most innovative and unique partnership in the diving industry. Towards the latter part of the year SSI and Mares announced that they would host meetings / events around Egypt to bring everybody up to speed. Once again I was dubious but attended the meeting to hear things as they say “from the horses mouth!”.

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Robert Stoss opened the meeting. Robert is one of the founders of SSI along with Guido Waetzig and admirably has a level of energy and passion that makes you want to listen and spend more time around him. For sure this guy is not done with the diving industry yet! By far the opposite, he is driving the digital revolution of training forward, helping us as the service provider be able to provide to our customers with greater ease. Secondly, we were introduced to Dusan Runjajic. Dusan, or Dusko as he is more well known is one of the top dogs within Mares and is a man with equal to, if not even more drive than Robert about his products and the new venture. An engineer by trade he has truly made his mark with Mares. Mares has become a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and distribution of state of the art diving equipment. The constant investment in innovation, patient research in the field of manufacturing materials and processes, combined with the expertise of the staff and professional approach gives Mares its leading position. Mares actually makes up part of the larger “Head” group. “Head” Company is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of branded sporting goods serving the skiing, tennis, swimming and diving markets.

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Dusko then outlined for us the relationship between Head, Mares and SSI. Now, normally through presentations like this I tend to switch off after a period of time, as you tend to hear the same things over and over about how good their product is above everybody elses. But this was not the case, I found myself 2 hours later still eagerly listening. These guys from Mares have actually designed a range of equipment for the dive centres to make our lives easier! The presentation was good and the recreational equipment is great but what about my greatest passion, tech diving, tech equipment?!

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I had some time in between this event in Egypt and the DEMA dive show in America to have a think about a few things. The passion, drive and energy from all these people that I had met at SSI and Mares was astounding and I only knew that I wanted to be more involved. It was a breath of fresh air to find in todays diving industry a group of people with similar future ideas not only about business (which of course is fundamental) but about moving the industry forward in unique ways. The product line by Mares currently does not have a well known reputation in the technical diving world but what I can say is that I personally and Tekstreme will be helping in whatever way we can to test new products and aid the development of Mares technical diving equipment. We will be continually teaching SSI technical courses to show case the new products as they emerge and to increase awareness of the brand in the technical arena.

All I can say is watch this space…..

Many thanks to Guido, Robert, Dusko, Adam, Karim, and Tarek for all of what they have done for us in 2014 and we really look forward to 2015.

Note 1 – Paul Toomer is no longer with SSI. His role in SSI has been taken over by Adam Wood who is a gifted and professional technical instructor and who has already shown his commitment and will continue to drive SSI TXR where Paul left off.

Note 2 – Part of my blog with the description of Head and Mares has come directly from their presentation! I don’t claim that these are my words 🙂

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Brother Islands & Safaga Red Sea Technical safari.

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So the dates have now been released and back by popular demand….

 

Tekstreme will be offering a fully equipped technical safari to include the Brother islands from the 6th June – 13th June 2014Image

The itinerary (weather dependant) should include:

 

Panarama Reef in Safaga

The stunning walls of Small Brother Island

The Wreck of the Numidia on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Aida on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Salam Express in Safaga

The Wreck of the Gulf Fleet in Hurghada

The Wreck of Colona V in Hurghada

 

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There will be only 16 places available, and these spaces are available for all levels of technical diver. Trimix certification is not  a requirement but would be of benfit. All levels of technical courses and Gas Blending courses can all be run on board.

The boat will be the Gold boat “Superior” from Emperor Divers. Check out http://www.emperordivers.com/liveaboards-fleet-superior.php for more details and specifications of the boat

For a more information on how to join our summer time technical safari contact me directly at tekstreme@emperordivers.com

The price for the trip is only 1172 euros.

This price includes:

7 nights accommodation

Food and soft drinks on board

All Marine Park fees & Fuel surcharges

Transfers to and from the airport

Twin set hire or CCR tank hire

2 x Decompression / Bailout tanks

All Oxygen fills for CCR

Dont hesitate to book yourself and join us on some of the greatest tech dives in the Red Sea.

Cat & the Tekstreme Team